Correction: U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, is a retired Marine lieutenant general. His military rank was misidentified in an earlier version of this story.
An Iraq veteran with a long career in the Marines plans to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Jack Bergman – also a retired Marine officer – for his seat representing northern Michigan in 2018.
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Matthew W. Morgan, a Democrat, said Wednesday he filed the paperwork to run against Bergman. It will be his first bid for public office, inspired in part by the growing number of Iraq veterans in Congress, but he will need to win the Democratic primary.
Bergman defeated Democrat Lon Johnson last fall to succeed Rep. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls, who retired. Bergman, 70, is a retired Marine lieutenant general, who worked as a commercial airline pilot for Northwest Airlines for many years while serving in the Reserves.
Morgan, 45, an Iraq veteran, retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after 24 years, starting as an infantry officer but spending his last four years in the service as the director of public affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command out of Norfolk, Virginia.
Prior to that, Morgan spent time as a strategic communications officer in the office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Pentagon during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He spent a total 18 months on the ground in Iraq, in addition to time he spent supporting counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, he said.
“After the (fall) election, I was left searching, and in early January when Congress took to the floor and started running this anti-EPA agenda, I got really concerned,” Morgan said in an interview.
“Then discussions turned to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. I got into several conversations with some local folks who had been searching for a viable candidate. When I was offered the opportunity to consider it, it struck me as an opportunity to get back into public service.”
In addition to health care, issues that concern Morgan include protecting funding for cleaning up the Great Lakes and comprehensive immigration reform, noting the population of migrant workers that farmers in the district rely on.
Morgan, a 1993 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is now an independent writer and film consultant, working on movies including “American Sniper” and “Arrival.”
After his retirement from the Marines, he and his wife, Angie, decided to return to her native Michigan to raise their young sons, he said. He has lived in Traverse City for four years.
Morgan said while he and Bergman are both retired Marine officers, they are from different generations, with Bergman’s service including the Cold War era.
“I firmly believe that getting more – particularly post-9/11 – veterans into Congress is going to help bring some degree of civility and business/workman-like attitude to Congress,” Morgan said.
Asked about his new challenger, Bergman spokeswoman Farahn Morgan said his priority is working with constituents and colleagues “to get things done for the 1st District.”
“That's a promise he made during his campaign, and it's a promise he's keeping as he serves the First District in the House of Representatives,” she said by email.
“As a member of Congress and a general in the Marine Corps, his commitment has always been to people and to public service. That's where he's focusing his energy.”